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US News: Barcelona: Faulí in the footsteps of Gaudí to complete the Sagrada Familia

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Seventh chief architect of the Sagrada Familia, Jordi Faulí has ​​long been considered the man who will complete the emblematic work of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona. But the pandemic has again cleared the plans of this outstanding site, in progress for almost 140 years.

"I would like to be here for many years, of course, but I go back to God," entrusts in a shy grimace this Barcelona, ​​born near the famous basilica, where he started working in 1990.

At the time, he was 31 years old. Either the same age as Gaudí when he had embarked on the construction of this monumental work he devoted four decades, until his death, when he was hit by a tram in 1926.

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"When I arrived, Only three of these columns were built, and only the first ten meters ", tells at AFP Jordi Faulí, pointing out of several stone pillars from a main nave attic.

"I had the chance to plan and see built all the interior, then the sacristy, and now the central towers," adds this 62-year-old man to the slow phrasing. The largest of the nine tours already completed, that of the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday, the day of the Immaculate Conception, at 7:40 pm (18:40 GMT), with the illumination of a gigantic star of glass and steel 5.5 tons overlooking the structure at 138 meters high.

It will eventually be the second highest round on the 18 planned by Gaudí. It will also be the first inaugurated since 1976.

History struck

When will the rest of the building be completed? The initial calendar provided for a completion of the work in 2026, dates from the centenary of the death of the famous modernist architect. But with the pandemic of Covid-19, this objective has been abandoned and the continuation of the work remains uncertain.

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"We can not give any estimate, because we do not know at what level the visits will resume in the coming years," says Jordi Faulí, who recalls that the basilica is only funded by private donations and, above all, Paid entries of visitors.

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia was the most visited monument of Barcelona , with 4.7 million entries. But with the pandemic of Covid-19, the basilica remained closed to the public for almost a year from March 2020, in two cumulative periods.

According to municipal data, less than 764,000 people visited the building in 2020. And according to the Foundation in charge of the work, the visits will not regain their pre-crisis level before the end of 2023 at the earliest.

This is not the first time the site comes up against difficulties. The Sagrada Familia has even seen his threatened future at the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), when much of the plans and models left by Gaudí have disappeared in a fire.

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For some, this capital loss does not allow to consider recent elements as the work of the Catalan architect. Unesco also includes its World Heritage that the facade of the nativity and the crypt of the basilica, erected from the lifetime of Gaudí.

But for Faulí, the current building is faithful to the original project. Gaudí "has clearly drawn the layout of the different elements of the naves (...), vaults, towers" and proposed "that these geometric rules, this grammary that it has left in its models can be reproduced", insists-t -he.

Mass Tourism

Before the pandemic, Faulí, appointed Chief Architect of Basilica in 2012, headed a team of 27 architects and more than 100 workers. Today, only five architects and 16 workers work on the site.

In Barcelona, ​​a city of 1.6 million inhabitants where the debate on its tourism model is raging, such a project is all the more difficult than many inhabitants oppose the mass tourism which, according to themselves , destroyed some neighborhoods of the city ... including that of the basilica.

"My life is here and they want to put it on the ground" or "stop to the lies of tourist guides", thus denounce the banners attached to balconies in the street where the future main entrance of the building must be built, a staircase who would force to relocate several hundred families.

Asked about these reviews, Faulí advocates "dialogue with everyone and looking for just solutions". He would however like to see completed the main facade of the building, of which he has never left more than two weeks in a row in the last 30 years.

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